Friday, 8 August 2014

The Bolshoi. Performing third on the bill to a band you hate is not that bad



I had seen The Bolshoi perform third on the bill to 'The Addicts' at the 100 Club in Oxford St, London. This was one of their very first gigs, and the punk audience did not take to them at all. I did, I liked their songs and the way their lead singer, Trevor Tanner, put down hecklers with abuse laced with camp humour. One woman was so upset at the put down that she had to be physically restrained by her partner from attacking Trevor.

I arranged to catch up with them, a few weeks later at Kingston Polytechnic, when they were again third on the bill, this time to the 'Mighty Lemon Drops'.

You seem to be not too choosy in who you support, from dodgy punk bands to dodgy Indie bands?

Trevor: “Ummm. Well we are just getting started in London, and to be honest we will support anyone. As long as they get the audiences in, and maybe we can steal a few of them, like we did to you. We got ten pounds for that gig, which does not even cover our van cost, and then had to put up with the (cough noises) after us. Who said it was easy to be a rock and roll star?

Anyway this is fun, sitting in a cold student building being interviewed. This is what I was born to do! Ha, although I am not too good at these things yet, you are only our third ever interview.”

You have released one single (Sob Story) and a mini-lp (Giants) recently, how have they been selling?

Trevor: “Well to be honest the first single was not very good, the B side was alright. Sales were shit. Not surprising really, 'Sob Story' was a demo, so we were not happy with our playing, the mix or production. Our label (Beggars Banquet) insisted we got it out asap to get the name out, and who are we to argue?

'Giants' we are happier with, but it was a rush job as we had no money. We recorded it in May and mixed it in under a week, and it cost less than 2000 pounds, so Beggars will be happy. It was our first time working with a producer picked by the label, which was not a great experience as he seemed more interested in anything but the music. Particularly lines of white powder.

We have a new single coming out very soon, 'Happy Boy', and we spent much more time on it, and it shows.”

By the accent I am guessing you come from near Bristol.

Trevor: “Close, I have spent a lot of time in Bristol and Bath, but I am from the country. I have been in London for three years now, but Jan (Kalicki, drummer) and me are from Trowbridge and Melksham. Both places are dire, and we had to escape.

We formed the band 10 months ago, but I have been in London for 3 years now. We had one band (BTA: Moskow) but we did not get that far and they were not going to leave the West Country, so we did, and then we added the new boy to make us a three piece (points to Nick).

Nick: “I was already a rock star. I was in 'Praxis', a band that was massive in Woolwich. That is how we met. Trevor and Jan supported us in their first gig in Woolwich and I thought this band is better than us, so joined the support band. I am in Kingston now, which is 20 miles from Woolwich, so I guess I made the right decision!

Saying that, we just came back from going overseas for the first time, Beggars Banquet lined up these club gigs in Switzerland and France…”

Trevor: “The Swiss were really weird, it's as if the second world war had never finished there (BTA: Switzerland was actually neutral in the war, and did not play a huge part, although there are rumours of Nazi’s hiding out there afterwards). Paris went really well, They have less inhibitions than the British, if they don’t like you they shout “crap, crap” but if they like you they give you champagne. Thank you very much. We want to go back there.”

Do you get enough from the label to support you as a full time band?

Trevor: (laughing) “No, we are not on a wage or anything yet. Gig money does not pay the bills, and we have seen no royalties yet. We work as motorcycle couriers, which pays the rent, and is not too bad, except when you fall off. You do meet some bastards though “you are ten minutes late, and we are not going to pay you” and the like. So, at the end of the day performing third on the bill to a band you hate is not that bad.”
 
With a new single coming out, I expect you will be getting out of London and doing a national tour?

Trevor: “We want to do more gigs, but all the national tours require buy-ons (BTA: Where the support band pays the headline band a sum of money, 5000 pounds and up would be a normal amount) which we can’t afford and Beggars won’t do. We are trying to get them to put us on a tour with one of their artists, but we are getting nowhere at the moment. ‘The Cult’ don’t like us for some reason, we are not goth enough for ‘Pete Murphy’, and ‘The Icicle Works’, well I don’t even want to go there….”.

There is the also the 'Go-Betweens'?

Trevor: “Yeah, I am not sure we are great fit there either. We do have a plan though.

We want to do more gigs, and get the art of interviews sussed out and learn what we are doing. It is still all new for us. When you are in a band back home in the West Country it is not the same as London. You are not on trial the whole time, you don’t have to worry about bad reviews, you just go out and play whereas here you have to work so much harder, trying to keep everyone happy from record companies, to music papers, and of course fans.

We have only done a couple of headlines in tiny places so far, and we seem destined to remain a support band for a year or two. I quite enjoy it. You don’t have to be so organised and you can experiment a bit more to see what songs work, or don’t.

At the end of the day, I just want to get on a stage and play, and earn enough to get drunk”

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BTA: Here is a taste of unreleased Bolshoi. This track, 'Billys new boots' was a staple of their early gigs, but was discarded as new songs for their second album 'Friends' were written. This is from their very first demo tape sent to record companies to get a deal. Unavailable elsewhere.

The Bolshoi - Billys New Boots (Demo)


Epilogue: ‘Happy Boy’ was a big alternative chart hit for The Bolshoi, and it ended their days of being third on the bill to anyone. They went on to have many successful singles and albums, and made a huge impact on South America, before imploding. Watch out for my second interview with the band, recorded three years later.



(Original Interview excerpts published in Bludgeoned, 1986. This is the full unpublished interview from October 1985)

Photos taken at various gigs at the London Marquee in 1986 when the Bolshoi were headlining.

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